Unit 3: Belonging and Friendship: Pinky and Rex
By connecting with the characters from the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex, students learn that it's okay to be different and consider what it means to be a good friend.
In this unit, students grapple with common 2nd grade themes through reading the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex. Through connecting with Pinky and Rex, students will learn that it is okay to be different and to be proud of who they are, no matter what others may think. Students will also learn about what it truly means to be a good friend and how friends can support and stick up for one another in a variety of ways. They will also see that it is okay for boys and girls to be friends, even best friends. This unit builds onto multiple units from 1st grade in which students learned what it means to be a good friend and a good person. It is our hope that this unit deepens the understandings developed in previous grades by giving students characters to connect with. These connections are especially important for students who are struggling with some of the same issues and are not sure how to process or talk about them.
This unit is a transition from units that were predominately read aloud to a unit that is almost entirely shared or independent reading. Pinky and Rex are perfect texts for second graders, not only because of the important themes they teach but because of the way in which James Howe develops character and plot over the course of the series. As readers, students will be challenged to notice the descriptive details James Howe includes to show how characters feel in response to different problems and challenges. They will also be challenged to notice how a character’s dialogue shows what they are truly feeling and how the different “said” words James Howe includes deepens that understanding. Students will also begin to analyze why certain words in a text are written in italics and what that shows about how a character is feeling. This deep dive into character will allow students to truly understand the characters and the lessons that they are learning. By reading four books in the series, students will also have the chance to see how characters develop over the course of multiple texts. By the fourth text, students will have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of all three major characters.
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Book: Pinky and Rex by James Howe (Simon Spotlight, 1996)
Book: Pinky and Rex and the Bully by James Howe (Simon Spotlight, 1996)
Book: Pinky and Rex and the Spelling Bee by James Howe (Simon Spotlight, 1999)
Book: Pinky and Rex and the School Play by James Howe (Simon Spotlight, 2016)
Assessment Text: “Pinky and Rex and the New Baby” by James Howe and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Simon Spotlight)
Rubric: Grade 2 Writing Rubrics (Narrative, Opinion & Informational)
These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Specific skills to focus on when giving feedback on writing assignments
In this unit, students will use the power of basic conjunctions—“because,” “but,” and “so”—to craft more complex sentences. While the “because,” “but,” and “so” format guides students in writing complex sentences, using these conjunctions also pushes them to think critically and deeply about the content of the unit. We recommend continuing to use our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support to provide individual and small-group feedback throughout the unit.
In this narrative writing project, students use what they know about Pinky and Rex to write the first chapter of an imaginary new book in the series.
Students have many opportunities to write opinion paragraphs throughout the unit. In one lesson, they take the opinion paragraph through the writing process, focusing on using a Single Paragraph Outline and using linking words. In other lessons, students will focus on brainstorming their opinions and developing strong details that support those opinions. Also, they learn to decide what makes a strong topic sentence and how that is different from a supporting sentence. They take an opinion writing piece through the writing process at the end of the unit.
For the most part, the Pinky and Rex series books are written with decodable language. However, there are a few areas of complexity within each text. Therefore, targeted phonics and word recognition models should be added to help support students’ ability to decode and understand the core text. After a word analysis strategy is introduced, it should be spiraled and reinforced across all texts and lessons.
The main focus of this unit is on reading with expression, particularly character dialogue, in order to show understanding of the text. In all four core texts the character dialogue reveals a lot about character motivations, feelings, and perspectives. Therefore, a large focus of this unit should be on including opportunities for students to practice rereading dialogue with intonation, expression, and volume to match interpretation of the passage.
In this unit, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others. Students continue to focus on building on others' talk in conversations, with an emphasis on asking for clarification and further explanation as needed. The focus areas and discourse in this unit align with Tier 2 of the three tiers of academic discourse and all rows of the Academic Discourse Rubric (K-2). See the Teacher Tool on Tiers of Academic Discourse to help support students with the focus areas for this unit.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.
Describe Pinky and Rex’s relationship and Pinky and Amanda’s relationship by using details from the text to describe characters and character relationships.
Describe Pinky and Rex’s relationship by using details from the text to describe characters and character relationships.
Explain how Amanda’s dialogue shows how she feels about being at the museum by using dialogue and details to show how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Describe the lesson that Amanda, Pinky, and Rex learned by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges and what lesson they learn from the major events.
Discussion & Writing
Describe Pinky, Rex, and Amanda and how each character responds to major events and challenges by stating a claim and then providing supporting evidence from the entire text.
Explain why Pinky is embarrassed by what happens with Mrs. Morgan by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Explain in what ways Kevin is a bully and how his actions influence everyone around him, especially Pinky, by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Explain what advice Mrs. Morgan gave Pinky and why by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Explain how Pinky changed and what lesson he learned by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges and what lesson they learn from the major events.
Explain how Pinky and Rex feel about the spelling bee and how their feelings change by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Describe how Pinky’s feelings change over the course of the chapters and what causes the change by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Explain how Pinky and Rex changed and what lesson they learned by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges and what lesson they learn from the major events.
Explain why Pinky is mad at Rex and if it is fair that he is mad at her by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
Describe what happens during the play and what lesson Pinky and Rex learn by using details to describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges and what lesson they learn from the major events.
Discussion & Writing – 3 days
Debate two essential questions by participating in a class discussion by stating a claim and providing evidence from the unit.
Opinion Writing – 5 days
Argue whether or not kids and robots can be best friends using details about Pinky and Rex’s relationship from the entire Pinky and Rex series.
Narrative – 4 days
Write a narrative about Pinky and Rex using what you know about their personality traits and relationship.
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Create a yearbook page for one of the main characters from the Pinky and Rex series to demonstrate your understanding of character traits and relationships between characters.
The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Use adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Capitalize holidays, product names, and geographic names.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 2 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.
— Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
— Distinguish shades of meaning among closely related verbs (e.g., toss, throw, hurl) and closely related adjectives (e.g., thin, slender, skinny, scrawny).
— Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using adjectives and adverbs to describe (e.g., When other kids are happy that makes me happy).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
— Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
— Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
— Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
— Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.
— Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2—3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
— Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
— Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
— Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
— Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.
— With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.
— Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Form and use the past tense of frequently occurring irregular verbs (e.g., sat, hid, told).
— Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
— Use sentence-level context as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
— Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
— With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
— Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).
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